After a slight delay in beginning the “Odyssey Complex” at the main auditorium of the Shilpakala Academy, organised by the Goethe-Institut Dhaka on February 7, a young German apologised to the audience, saying there will be further delay as Felix Mathias Ott, the performer, was a little under the weather. He then went on to give an introduction to the play that he said is usually done by Felix. Only when he sat down at the lone table on the stage and the innocuous third-person narration turned into a dramatic monologue did the audience realise that the play had already been underway.
What followed in the next hour or so was a gripping, powerful and strongly poetic display of physical theatre, as the noted European contemporary choreographer brought elements previously unseen on the stages of Dhaka -- rain, falling tin-cans from the sky, a slide projector turned upside down and its flickering light depicting a small fire source.
“Odyssey”, the epic by Greek poet Homer that inspired the story, is about the circle of life and the theatrical adaptation showed a number of phases that everyone goes through in life: frustration, despair, denial, helplessness, betrayal, submission, battle with conscience, and the most primitive urge to survive and reach the safety and warmth of home.
Although the performance in itself was very powerful, as Felix Ott showed impeccable timing in a very expressive display of physical theatre, the use of the stage and props, and arrangement of the backgrounds brought out the best in the play. From the rain-machine to the ropes and pulleys to the table hanging in mid-air with flickering lights on its underside, the treadmill to the heap of sand that falls on Felix's head; the use of spotlights, ambient sound effects and the “overhead” dialogues; and the projection background with scenes of storms, sunrises and pre-shot scenes of the story helped greatly in interacting with the audience.